FNF joined the dialogue initiated by the European Commission on the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The EIDHR forum offers a platform for beneficiary civil society organizations (CSOs) such as FNF to review their experiences, look at lessons learnt and exchange best practices to improve the EIDHR operational support to CSOs.
At the center of this year’s edition: the diminishing space for NGOs in a number of countries as well as the EU’s response to this and other challenges through its financial instruments and policies in the context of the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020.
Representatives of civil society organizations from Russia, Bahrain and Egypt deplored the ever shrinking space of action for NGOs: “From Bangladesh to Burma, from Belarus to Bahrain, civil society is under attack. It is time for the international community to take a stand and protect civil society and it is absolutely important that the commitment of EIDHR is not the only avenue of support.” Indeed, the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis emphasized that supporting human rights defenders and NGO-s across the world will belong to his priorities in the coming years. “Human Rights will not be a footnote to EU policy but will be at its core. It is of the utmost importance that civil society is allowed not only to register freely, but to function freely. While transparency on the part of civil society is necessary, its prior monitoring through the government is not acceptable. Yes, to transparency, no to prior monitoring and intimidation of civil society!”
While the value of the EIDHR in its support to NGOs is widely appreciated, it is also key for this instrument to be more flexible and accessible in the future. Furthermore, impact is important especially in financially difficult times and when the resources are scarce. Kristian Schmidt, Director for Human and Society Development admits: “We have done a lot, but we can always do more, if we have the resources. I apologize in advance where we fail, it will not be for the lack of trying”.
The stakeholders agreed that money is critical but unless money is not linked to strategic thinking, it is not going to achieve anything. There is still a big mountain to climb in terms of protecting local civil society, protecting fundamental freedoms and human rights in the EU’s partner countries.
This was the third time that FNF participated in the EIDHR Forum. As a beneficiary of EIDHR, FNF has been implementing successfully EIDHR co-funded projects in cooperation with its local partners for many years.